Antonio Sanabria, now 19, played just two times for Roma in 2014/15. Twice used as a substitute by former Roma coach Rudi Garcia, Sanabria clocked a meager 33 minutes of time. Sent on loan to Spain’s Sporting Gijon ahead of this season, Sanabria has emerged as the premier teenage goal scorer in Europe’s top five leagues.
With ten goals from 16 matches for struggling Sporting, Sanabria has carried the newly promoted side throughout much of the season. In five of the six matches Sporting have won, the Paraguayan striker has scored. With two hat-tricks already to his name, the 19-year-old has bagged nearly half of the team’s total goals (24) and has many Roma fans expecting big things from the youngster in the future.
“I’m a young player who still has a lot to learn and this is a very good team for me to do that,” the striker explained to Spanish media earlier this season.
“I’m very comfortable here and we’ll see what happens at the end of the season.”
A product of Barcelona’s youth academy, Sanabria left in search of first team football in 2014. A stop off at Serie A’s Sassuolo before being signed by Roma for around $5 million, Sanabria was unable to make the breakthrough to a Roma side built to push for a Serie A title. Loaned out in August after Roma signed Edin Dzeko and Iago Falque, the striker is now getting regular first team games away from the intense pressure of the Italian capital. Interestingly, Sanabria’s ten goals are more than Dzeko, Falque and club legend Francesco Totti’s tallies combined.
Yet, it hasn’t all been roses for Sanabria at Sporting, and assuming the wunderkind could duplicate his current form at his parent club is presumptuous. Different expectations and defensive tactics could prevent the 5ft 9in striker from having a similar impact on Serie A.
However, AS Roma English contributor Wayne Girard, believes Sanabria has the ability and potential to add a lot to Roma’s attack.
“He probably could have done the same [at Roma] if the tactics were centered on making him the main scorer,” Girard stated.
“However, Roma is a team with 17 different goal scorers this season, showing, not only Garcia, but Luciano Spalletti’s ambitions to have a mixed attack without a focal point to play the ball through.”
The striker sat out much of October and November due to a thigh injury picked up in training. Coupled with a four match dry spell in front of goal, and things looked bleak for the northern Spanish side as Christmas approached. However, Sanabria’s first hat-trick on December 6th, has ushered in a period of form that has seen the Paraguayan go no more than two games on the trot without tallying a goal. In fact, Sanabria now has eight goals in his last eight fixtures.